29 Mar 2018

29 Mar 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day One: At Sea From Ushuaia To South Georgia

I hadn't had a lot of sleep in the three nights I was in Ushuaia & coupled with the effects of the seasickness tablets (which makes me sleepy) & a rocky first night, I ended up skipping breakfast & having a long lie in. It was good to catch up on the lost sleep. More importantly I had survived the first night without feeling seasick & this was to be my first long boat trip without any problems with seasickness. Once I got on deck I found I had missed a few Seabirds, but no Ticks: & all species I saw later that afternoon. A number of the other Wildwings Birders had been checking out the back of the fourth deck & so I spent the next few hours there. We had a fairly strong swell and it was one of the more stable locations. Later in the afternoon, the swell moderated & we spent more time at the bows. There was a good selection of Southern Ocean Seabirds on the first afternoon which included the following species:-
Black-browed Albatross: Subadult. A familiar face from the Beagle Channel. The bill looks like an adult bill, but the lack of a strong black eyebrow suggests it is still a subadult. Anybody who wants to look at aging properly can have a more detailed read of the excellent North Atlantic Seabirds: Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels by Bob Flood & Ashley Fisher
Royal Albatross: Adult. Albatross taxonomy is not agreed by all authorities & currently Clements lumps the two Royal Albatrosses: this is the Southern Royal Albatross
Royal Albatross: Adult. Another Southern Royal individual
Royal Albatross: This is the head of the second individual. Both subspecies of Royal Albatrosses have a dark line in the pink bill, which Wandering Albatrosses do not show
Wandering Albatross: Again Wandering Albatross taxonomy is not agreed & Clements treats the distinct populations as subspecies. This is an Adult Snowy Albatross
Wandering Albatross: A close up of the head of this individual shows the all pink bill. Seem to remember somebody on the Odyssey saying that Wandering Albatrosses have a different head & neck shape & the yellow-brown colouration on the sides of the neck is a salt staining (which Royal Albatrosses do not show)
Wandering Albatross: I'm constantly amazed at how much information you can get from photos that is not possible to see in the field: this individual is ringed
Wandering Albatross: Subadult. The aging of Wandering Albatrosses is hard & further complicated by the various subspecies. I will stick to Subadult. The feet extend more prominently in flight compared to Royal Albatrosses
Wandering Albatross: The underwing of the same individual
Diving-petrel sp.: I'm posting these photos for comment. The photos were taken in early afternoon on the first day after leaving Ushuaia. We were probably about 100 nautical miles off the East coast of Argentina
Diving-petrel sp.: I originally wondered if the apparent white collar might suggest this was a Megallanic Diving-petrel, but I now think it's a photo effect magnifying a pale eyebrow & ear coverts & is more likely to be a Common Diving-petrel. But I don't think it can be safely regarded as anything other than Diving-petrel sp.
Diving-petrel sp.: All photos are of the same individual
Diving-petrel sp.
Cape Petrel: One of the most instantly recognisable Petrels of the Southern Ocean
Cape Petrel
Cape Petrel: This and the previous two photos are a different individual to the final photo
Cape Petrel: This individual looks like the nominate subspecies. The australe subspecies breeds on the New Zealand Subantarctic islands & is darker than this individual on the wings & has heavier spots on the rump. However, Bob Flood & Ashley Fisher in the North Atlantic Seabirds: Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels book state that there is considerable variation within the populations & so many should be considered as intermediate
Soft-plumaged Petrel: One of my favourite Petrels from the Southern Ocean
Soft-plumaged Petrel: Fortunately, we regularly saw Soft-plumaged Petrels in the South Atlantic & this really helped me get my eye in for when we entered Pterodroma waters during the West African Pelagic
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel: They are really good at getting into these unusual postures
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Slender-billed Prion: The Slender-billed Prion photos are all from the same individual
Slender-billed Prion: I think Prions are one of the most difficult Seabird groups around to identify. Superficially, they all fairly similar & lighting can change their overall colouration as you follow an individual flying around the ship
Slender-billed Prion
Slender-billed Prion
Great Shearwater: The first of many we were to see in the Southern Ocean
Grey-backed Storm-petrel: I saw at least 15 of these distinctive Storm-petrels. We quickly got good to scanning the small patches of floating weed, as the Grey-backed Storm-petrels were sometimes sitting on this weed. A pity the photos aren't better
Grey-backed Storm-petrel: This is a circumpolar species which occurs as far North as 35 South (i.e. roughly as far North as Buenos Aires)
It was a good start to the trip with good light for photography. However, I now have over 20,000 photos from the Odyssey to sort through so it's going to be some time before I get to the 7,000 or so from the West African Pelagic.